Wednesday, September 26, 2012

It's show time -- finally -- for 'Midsummer'

The Garfield Shakespeare Company in Indianapolis experienced a "first" last Friday when it was scheduled to open its fall production of "A Midsummer Night's Dream" in the outdoor MacAllister Center for the Performing Arts: a rainout. In its modest history, no outdoor show ever had to be postponed because of weather before.

So Friday's opening was pushed back a day to Saturday, when the show, directed by Joe Cook, launched ... despite one of the coldest nights the all-volunteer theater troupe ever had to perform in. Spectators wisely brought along coats, blankets and hot chocolate, and at least one of the rain dates (either Oct. 5 or 6) will come into play. There was some word last weekend that the troupe would try to add the second extra show as well, but I hadn't heard anything official on that yet. Definitely still on the schedule are this weekend's shows -- Sept. 28 and 29.

Weather was no object on Sept. 19, two days before the originally scheduled opening, when I shot the only all-cast dress rehearsal at the amphitheater. It was the first opportunity I had to see several cast members in their costumes. Pictures from that shoot are what you see here; a full gallery of images from the production can be found at my site at

I think I'm like a lot of people who, when the subject of Shakespeare's "Midsummer" comes up, first conjure images of the play's fairies, three of whom -- Oberon, Titania and Puck -- have key roles in the story. But the other fairies of the forest provide wonderful dressage and imagery to the production, which is why I chose to lead with the image you see at the top. It was a challenge to capture them all in a single frame, but what you see above is most of them from the GSC cast.

Below you'll find images from other moments of the play.

Above and below: Puck (left, played by J.D. Bonitz) is referred to in the plot narratives as "mischievous," but it's Oberon, king of the fairies (played by Stephen E. Foxworthy), who directs Puck's antics. Above and below, Puck and Oberon's child servant (played by Trey Van Pelt) act out as Oberon discusses his cupid-playing plan. 

Above: Gabby Sandefer stepped up splendidly in a GSC breakout role as the lead fairy, Mustardseed. In this picture, she stood right in front of a set of colored lights, making this image "pop," as they say in the photo industry. 

Above: The photos give powerful testament to the costuming task directed by Bradley A. Jones. On a meager budget, he shops Goodwill and other bargain stories and transforms the acquisitions into believable period garb. Here his work is "modeled" by fairy Elizabeth Fasbiner.

Above: Dancing fairies Clara Ross (left) and Mia Hinds.

Above: Faced with an awkward vantage point, I tried to turn it into my favor by going for a little different perspective with this shot of Bonitz and Sandefer.

Above and below: To illustrate the detail in makeup to round out the fairy costuming, here are closeups of Foxworthy (Oberon) and Susan Yeaw, who played Titania, queen of the fairies.

Above: One of my favorite shots of the rehearsal -- as Titania makes it clear to Oberon that her troll changeling, whom Oberon desires, is off limits, Puck can hardly contain himself in the background.

Above: Theseus, duke of Athens (played by my son, Ben Konz), along with (from left) Hippolyta, played by Lexie Brown, and Hermia (Christy Walker). Theseus and Hippolyta were to be be married by the end of the play, but at this point  Hipployta was still queen of the amazons. 

Above and below: Photos that exploit the dramatic quality of selective depth of field, both shot at f/2.8, the widest aperture available on different Canon lenses. Above, Konz and Walker; below, Trey observing Bonitz and Foxworthy from afar. The difference in the bokeh (the blurred subject area) is attributable to the lens focal distance. Above, the more compression- and smoother-bokeh-delivering 70-200mm lens set at 145mm; below, the lower-range 24-70mm, at 51mm.

Above: Mark Fasbinder portrayed Egeus, father of Hermia. Egeus fiercely opposes his daughter's romantic interest in Lysander and instead lobbies for her marriage to Demetrius.

Above and next two below: The romantic interests of Demetrius (above, played by Spencer Elliott) and Helena, played by his real-life wife, Ashley Chase-Elliott are scrambled along with those of Hermia and Lysander, played by Andy Sturm (far left in first image below). Early in the storyline, Helena goes after Demetrius aggressively (above) despite his repeated rebuffs. Once Puck applies romance-changing drops to Lysander, the plot escalates into confusion and a flat-out free for all (below).   

Above: Oberon later directs Pucks to reverse the chaos the king had unwittingly created (because Puck improperly administered the order), putting Hermia and Lysander back together again.

Above: Meanwhile, six local laborers got together to form a theater troupe, the Rude Mechanicals, with plans to perform a play, "Pyramus and Thisbe," a love story written by one of them, Peter Quince (right). Quince begins to make assignments for the cast of this play, beginning by the appointment of Nick Bottom (played by Todd Crickmore, left) to play male lead Pyramus.

Above and next two below: Puck's mischief extends to the Mechanicals when the fairy transformed Bottom's head into that of a donkey (above), or as Bottom aptly refers to it in the manuscript, "an ass." But despite that turn of events, Titania (first image below) finds herself attracted to Bottom after she, too, gets a dose of affection-changing drops from Puck at Oberon's direction. That lasts until Oberon (second image below) uses the magic flower to reverse the hex on his wife.

Above and below: The Mechanicals' Snug, played by Cody Blackford, gets perhaps the most challenging role in "Pyramus" -- to play the lion -- because Snug is not only meek (his "roar" is hardly that) but also a little slow to grasp things. The shot above, another of my favorites, was taken as Snug struggled with the simple task of exiting the stage during an early scene. Below, the king of the forest acting out his role in "Pyramus."  

Above: The Mechanicals' Robin Starveling executes her role in "Pyramus" as Moonshine by using a lantern to provide light. 

Above: When Quince assigns Francis Flute (played by Christopher "Rock" Blackwell) the role of Thisbe, Flute doesn't realize at first that Thisbe is a woman. "What is Thisbe? A wandering knight?" Flute asks with pride. When Quince sets Flute straight about how there will be a cross-gender required, he reacts in disbelief (above), to the amusement of fellow Mechanicals Starveling and Snug.

Above and next three below: The Mechanicals' Tom Snout (center, played by Tony Van Pelt, Trey's father) acts as the wall (literally) and uses the fingers of a hand to create an opening in the wall through which Pyramus and Thisbe communicate. Flute acquits himself nicely (first image below), carrying out the cross-gender role of Thisbe and, in fact, provides the troupe's shining moment (second and third images below) when his emotions upon finding the body of Pyramus and then using her lover's sword to kill herself moves Theseus to praise the passion he has just witnessed.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

A great day for Vintage ballists to play 4

America's past time went retro again on Sunday at Garfield Park, where seven 1880s-rules Vintage Base Ball League teams converged to play in the Indianapolis Hoosiers Cup tournament.

Although the "look" of the team uniforms, the style of play and even the vernacular -- hitters were called "strikers" and players were called "ballists" -- might have been old-school, the enjoyable atmosphere of America's game was every bit contemporary Sunday. Weather cooperated fully, so much so that Ernie Banks, the Major League Baseball Hall of Famer whose love of the game is remembered by his catch phrase: "It's a beautiful day for a ballgame; let's play two!", might even have quipped Sunday: "Let's play four!"

That's because there were four rounds of games, beginning at 11 a.m. and running through about 5 p.m. Actually, only three teams played four games -- the Hoosiers, Indianapolis Blues and a team that combined players of two clubs from St. Louis. Each round, one of the four other teams had a bye. They played on three makeshift diamonds in the expansive green between the park's aquatic center and landmark pagoda.

A fourth diamond was going to be included, as eight teams initially committed to participate. But the Unions and Perfectos of St. Louis ended up combining to form one team due to personal reasons that heavily depleted the Unions' squad.

I caught and photographed parts of games in the first two of four rounds before calling it a day. It was my third shoot of Vintage Base Ball at the park, home field for the Hoosiers. I was on hand for the Cup in June 2010, and stopped in briefly -- not more than 15 minutes -- earlier this summer to test a specific lens for shooting baseball.

Sunday was my first look at the Unions and Perfectos, as well as the Vermilion (Ill.) Voles and West Lafayette Couriers, the former Mulberry Manglers, which had participated in the 2010 Cup.
Also participating Sunday were three local teams -- the host Hoosiers, the White River Base Ball Club and the Indianapolis Blues -- and the Batesville Lumbermen. Several of the teams are members of the umbrella Vintage Base Ball Association.

A full gallery of photos from the Hoosiers Cup is at my site at SmugMug.

Above: It was common to see teammates in the background when a fellow ballist was in the batter's box. 

Above: One of the interesting styles of underhand pitching seen Sunday. This hurler was a member of the Vermilion Voles.

Above: Outfielders, or "scouts," for the combined Perfectos and Unions of St. Louis converged to catch this fly ball in their Round 2 game against the Hoosiers. The Old English lettering on the jersies combined with the "vintage" nature of the sport prompted the idea to use a monochrome version of this image filtered in an "Antique" tint. 

Above: The front sides of the St. Louis Perfecto jersies stood out and were easily the most colorful outfits on the field.

Above: A delivery by a hurler for the Cup host team, the Indianapolis Hoosiers. I chatted with this ballist briefly during the team's opening game against the Voles, and he told me a hurler often incurs hand injuries for instinctively trying to "glove" liners off the bats of hitters going back up the middle. There is little time to think -- and to remember -- that these teams play 19th-century rules, when ballists did not wear mitts or gloves. He has two permanent injuries to his hands, including a finger that won't straighten. 

Above and below: A pitcher for the Batesville Lumbermen saw this shot off the bat of a striker for the White River Base Ball Club come right back at him. He did not try to "glove" the ball; he did well to dodge the liner altogether.

The Vintage style rules allow for a putout if an outfielder gathers a fly ball on the first bounce, as this Vermilion Voles outfieler, or "scout," is doing. Baserunners are not required to tag up on a one-bounce flyout; they must tag up, however, if an outfielder catches a fly in the traditional no-bounce form. 

Above: A Voles batter, or "striker" as the league calls the hitter, takes a cut at this pitch.

Above: There weren't enough umpires to work all the games as this period-dressed umpire did for a game between the Hoosiers and Perfectos-Unions. In games without umpires, teams dutifully abide an honor system in which the batting team designates one of its ballists to call fair or foul balls and any plays at the plate. 

Above: Ballists for the Indianapolis Blues stood behind home plate during their Round 2 game against the Voles. 

Above: Another pitching style, this by a hurler for the White River Base Ball Club.

Above: A fielder prepares to attempt a putout on batted ball. 

Above: A left-handed Batesville Lumberman striker makes contact with the pitch in a game against White River.

Above: A wide-angle overview shot of the open area where three games were played at a time. Closest to the camera was a game between Batesville and White River.

Above: A Hoosiers striker prepares to take a cut at a pitch.

Above and next six below: Fans -- known as "cranks" in Vintage Base Ball jargon -- dotted the grounds during the tournament, as these images document.

Above and next two below: At the conclusion of the West Lafayette Couriers' first-round game against the Indianapolis Blues, leaders of both teams salute the competition and "cranks," then teams conclude the match with well wishes to each other.